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a building’s use and occupancy and very specific levels of acceptable dust accumulation. For example, the ductwork in a room used only for storage may need to be clean to a level of 0.9 g/m2

whereas a

treatment area in a hospital or laboratory would need to comply with 0.3 g/m2


NONCOMPLIANCE It is estimated that half of all illness is caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air, with one in six allergies brought on by fungi and bacteria found in air ducts. Dust mites, E. coli, salmonella and more are found in dirty air ducts and pose a potential health risk to anyone in the building.

The responsibility for BS 15780 lies with the end user, not the landlord, regardless of who commissioned the building work or contract cleaning. This means that if an employee has a medical issue that can be linked back to improper cleaning of air ducts, the employer will have failed in their duty of care. There is a risk that negligence and noncompliance could be brought, leading to fines or long and expensive court proceedings.

SICK BUILDING SYNDROME Should FMs neglect to sufficiently

The ventilation system is often the first of the major services to be installed or modified during refurbishment but debris from other building works post-installation can contaminate a previously clean system. Previous legislation regarding the cleanliness of ductwork did not have properly measurable, standardised assessment criteria and assumed that protection of ductwork would be sufficient to maintain internal cleanliness. Now the emphasis is in two parts, ensuring the system is clean and dust and debris free after installation and the appropriate level of cleanliness is maintained by annual inspection and intervention where necessary.

There are three levels of cleanliness quality that apply, dependent upon

maintain HVAC systems, the spread of polluted air can be the cause of the spread of illness. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, runny noses, poor concentration and itching. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly the cause of the symptoms, and they are often blamed on Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). The phenomenon involves people having a range of symptoms related to a certain building with no specific or identifiable cause. SBS symptoms can vary wildly day to day, and usually improve or disappear once those suffering leave the building.

Those working in modern, open plan offices without windows are more likely to be at risk than those in more traditional offices. Shared spaces such as schools and libraries

are also at a higher risk, although the specific reasons for this are difficult to identify. Air conditioning systems may hold the key to SBS, however. An insufficiently maintained air conditioning system can create ventilation problems, especially when combined with unclean air filters. It is therefore the duty of the FM to ensure the system is well maintained and unlikely to contribute to SBS, which can lead to unproductive, unhappy employees.

SUMMER REPLACEMENTS Many people are now aware that

the new legislation around R22 refrigerant comes into effect from 2015. Although R22 has long been an industry standard for air conditioning, it is now being phased out due to environmental concerns. New substances like R410-A will be used instead, requiring specialist, qualified installation engineers to manage the changeover. This is costly and time consuming and may leave facilities without air conditioning for a significant length of time.

With summer here, temperatures force air conditioning units to work to capacity. Having a system that is ill-equipped to cope can at best create unpleasant and unproductive working conditions, and at worst seriously disrupt business-critical processes. Not only that but the HVAC industry is likely to experience a capacity crunch with users and providers of air con tackling the issue, so there is no guarantee that experienced engineers will have the resources to help in an emergency situation. In this situation, portable air conditioning can be hired to help minimise disruption.

FMs who pay little attention to the issues surrounding air conditioning this summer does so at their peril – it could lead to expensive remedial work and potential legal action further down the road.


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